“You don’t learn those things necessarily by just reading a book. It’s hardcore experience and it starts out small and starts out with duct tape and chewing gum and all that stuff and then you start building in these systems and processes as you need them to get there.”
This episode is part of the Brands that Book ‘Founders’ Series.’ This series will feature the founders and CEOs of companies that have created products and services for the creative industry.
Today’s guest is Gavin Wade, the founder of CloudSpot, a photo gallery solution for professional photographers.
CloudSpot makes it easy to load, organize and share your images with clients, and it’s actually what we used in our photography business. In the episode, we get to hear about Gavin’s journey from fitness professional, to wedding photographer, to founder of a software company, and the challenges that Gavin and his team have faced and overcome throughout the last few years. One thing you’ll pick up about Gavin is that he’s not scared to take a risk and pursue an idea, even if there are some serious challenges to tackle.
Gavin started his photography business nearly ten years ago in Southern California. After graduating Wheaton College in Illinois, he discovered his love for photography. He left his profession in fitness to pursue a passion and together with his wife Erin, quickly grew their business to over 30 weddings a year and led workshops to teach and give back to new and aspiring professionals.
As his photo business grew, Gavin was frustrated with the incredible amount of time it took just to deliver and manage his work in a digital world. Scribbles on a napkin soon became a full-blown endeavor to build CloudSpot – an invaluable tool for the creative community.
Gavin is a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy, car fanatic, and closet Star Trek fan. He thinks bacon should be it’s own food group and he may or may not have been a model years ago. Gavin enjoys learning everything possible about building SaaS businesses and continues to still shoot weddings. If he’s not behind a computer or a camera, you’ll find him spending every free moment with his wife and daughter, Lexi!
Follow Gavin and Cloudspot: Instagram | Facebook
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
- CloudSpot: Use the code BTBSHOW to get 25% off and free image migration (not an affiliate link).
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Related Episode: Founders’ Series – Todd Watson – Choosing Impact
“[0:00:06.1] GW: You don’t learn those things necessarily by just reading a book. It’s hardcore experience and it starts out small and starts out with duct tape and chewing gum and all that stuff and then you start building in these systems and processes as you need them to get there.”
[0:00:25.1] DJ: Welcome to the Brands that Book Show, where we help creative service-based businesses build their brands and find more clients. I’m your host, Davey Jones.
Today’s episode is part of the Founder Series, where we chat with founders and CEOs of companies that have created products and services that help creatives run their businesses. Today’s guest is Gavin Wade, the Founder of CloudSpot; a photo gallery solution for professional photographers.
CloudSpot makes it easy to load, organize and share your images with clients and is actually what we use in our photography business. In the episode, we get to hear about Gavin’s journey from fitness professional, to wedding photographer, to founder of a software company. We get to hear about the challenges that Gavin and his team have faced and overcome throughout the last few years.
One thing you’ll pick up about Gavin is that he’s not scared to take a risk and pursue an idea, even if there are some serious challenges to tackle. Before we get started, CloudSpot is offering 25% off any plan for the first year and free image migration. Yes, that’s right, free image migration. Just use the code BTB Show when you sign up. That’s not an affiliate link. We don’t get anything for you signing up. We’re just recommending a product that we’ve used and appreciated.
Be sure to check out the show notes at daveyandkrista.com for the resources we mentioned during the episode and I’d like to hear from you about what kind of content you’d like to see on the Brands that Book Podcast as we move forward. I’d also like to know what episodes you’ve enjoyed most so far and why. To leave your feedback, head on over to the Davey and Krista Facebook page and send us a message.
Now, on to the episode.
[0:02:10.5] DJ: All right. Today on the show, we have Gavin Wade. Gavin started out as a photographer, but he is now the CEO and founder of CloudSpot, which is the actually online gallery solution that we use to deliver our galleries, or that we previously used to deliver our galleries to our clients. I say previously only because we’re not shooting anymore, but all of our galleries still live on CloudSpot. Welcome to the show, Gavin.
[0:02:36.6] GW: Hey, thanks Davey. Good to see you, man.
[0:02:38.4] DJ: Yeah. I was pumped that we got an opportunity to meet each other in person for the first time this past year at Showit UNITED. It was awesome to see you in person, but then also to talk with you a little bit about what’s been going on in development for CloudSpot. I got to pick your brain, because I feel like CloudSpot is one of those companies that’s always rolling out new updates.
It’s every day in the CloudSpot Facebook group I see, “Hey, we just released the online version of CloudSpot.” I knew that was a big release, the web version, right, recently. Then beyond that, now there’s new integrations rolling out, all sorts of stuff. I’m excited to dig into that with you and talk maybe even a little bit about how you’re able to get so much done in what seems like such a small amount of time. I don’t want to jump the gun. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started?
[0:03:34.7] GW: Yeah, absolutely. Just to echo what you said, it was great meeting you guys officially there at Showit UNITED. Although no offense, your little guy stole the show a bit and did you.
[0:03:44.6] DJ: He’s definitely the highlight now.
[0:03:48.6] GW: Absolutely. Would love to share the background of where CloudSpot came from. Like you mentioned, my wife and I were photographers. Now we still are. We still shoot weddings and family portraits. We just dialed it back a lot. We started out not as photographers together. We were dating. We had met on eHarmony. It was one of those super weird things where the internet glitched and we got matched up together.
We both had our day jobs, we both had our degrees and we just one night we’re sitting at dinner and we just weren’t loving our day jobs at all. We were griping. We were complaining. We were in our early 20s at the time and I just looked at her I’m like, “Hey, you know what? We don’t have to be stuck in this for forever if we don’t want to.” We are at this point in life, we’re still living at home. We can make some dumb decisions still. We’ve still got some time left. If you could do it all over again, what would you want to do?” Our answer was the same thing. It was photography.
We had no previous photography experience. I had known some photographers. She had known some. We had messed around, but nothing official. We said, “Well, let’s give it a go.” I reached out a photographer friend, ended up going to a little conference in LA a few days later. Right after that was done, we sunk our life savings in the camera gear, which when you’re 22 your life savings is one camera body, one lens. It’s not glamorous, but we got enough to get us into trouble in the photo world and we said, “Look, let’s start learning.”
We went to workshops. We took an intensive class. We started investing into that side. Our dating life was pretty unique, because every time we were together was pretty much working on a business that we had started together. Then when we got married 13 months after first starting our photo business, as soon as we got back from our honeymoon, we quit our day jobs, and so we were doing a photography full-time ever since then.
[0:05:33.5] DJ: There is so much to unpack in just those short few minutes that you gave it over. I mean, first one, starting a business is stressful. I mean, and Krista and I, I think we have a great relationship and a great marriage. Even with that said, I mean, it’s tough sometimes working together, right? I guess, I should say there’s challenges there. You’re starting a business with your girlfriend at the time.
[0:05:58.2] GW: Girlfriend. Yeah. No commitment, no nothing. I’m not saying, “I’m going to marry you.” Nothing like that. We were just like, “Hey, let’s start this thing.” Between you and me, I already knew I was going to marry her. It was one of those things like, let’s give it time. Yeah. Our relationship started off pretty darn interesting. Not your traditional one for sure.
[0:06:16.2] DJ: Yeah, yeah, awesome. What were you all doing before photography?
[0:06:19.5] GW: My degree is in kinesiology. I was doing physical therapy, personal training. I was actually a fitness consultant at that time for Taco Bell, believe it or not.
[0:06:29.0] DJ: I guess they need one, right?
[0:06:30.7] GW: Yeah, talk about job security, right? They actually have in their western headquarters here in Southern California, they have a gym on the first floor of their 20-storey office building. I was the personal trainer in there that was all their employees. There just so happened to be right across the hallway a huge food court of every single fast food joint you could think of that Taco Bell owns. Yeah, my clients were coming right out of the gym and go right into the KFC food court.
It was one of those things where I was doing training. I was loving the fitness world, but I was at that point where I’m like, “I’m either going to invest in going back to school, getting a ton more debt and doing the doctoral physical therapy degree, or not.” My wife, she had a degree in neurological psychology so she was either going to do family counseling. She actually owned her other business at the time. She was a massage therapist as well.
Yeah, it was a grind man, but it was a grind for somebody else and not really for us. We were just wondering like, “Hey, if we’re 50-years-old, 60-years-old, is this something that we’re going to find a lot of joy in?” The answer was no, and so we said, “Well, what will give us joy? What will at least light a fire underneath us?” The decision was definitely not popular with the parentals at the time when I informed them that just months out of college that all of that wonderful student debt they had racked up on my behalf was going to not be used whatsoever.
There were consequences of that for sure. I got kicked out of the house and I got an ultimatum of you got to pay all your student loans back now if you’re going to make a big-boy decision like that, but I didn’t care. I said, “Yeah, we’re going to go. We’re going to do it.” Yeah, it took about a year and a half, although we shot about 28 weddings in our first year dating, by the way. Then when we got married, we shot anywhere from 30 to 50 weddings a year after that.
[0:08:13.6] DJ: Okay. Wow, that’s awesome. Did you all primarily shoot your weddings together, or did you split up, or a little bit of both?
[0:08:19.6] GW: Always together. Always together pretty much since day one. As you mentioned, there are challenges. I would even say it’s not easy sometimes, because two different people – I mean, we had the benefit of building our business together, but if you come into a relationship and you already have preconceived notions about how my business is run and how your business is run, there’s definitely be I would feel a bigger clash there. We very early on divided the responsibilities in terms of what we enjoyed. I hated editing, she loved it. I hated design, she loved it. She hated all the techie stuff, like website, SEO, I loved it; all the camera stuff, the e-mails and the client communication.
The lines were drawn pretty clearly there. Yeah, I mean, it was great working shoulder-to-shoulder with the person you love more than anything in the world. Don’t think together. Whether it succeeds or fails, that experience alone is pretty freaking cool. That was that.
[0:09:18.0] DJ: Yeah, it’s awesome. Krista and I, we tried shooting apart a little bit, but it’s pretty stressful not shooting together. We did that for a very short amount of time before deciding that we’re going to shoot all of our weddings together. It sounds like good match between you and your girlfriend at the time, but eventually your wife. 50 weddings a year, I mean, that’s almost every weekend a year.
[0:09:39.9] GW: We had double, triple headers sometimes. We only did that one year and we didn’t do anything differently in our business, but it just so happened to coincide with the year that we decided to start CloudSpot and we were self-funding that ourselves. While we were busier and the business I’ve never been doing better, all of that was going straight into another dream. We had never been at our poorest, I guess you could say, than that year of shooting 50 weddings, but we were building something else, and so that was equally as energizing.
[0:10:08.6] DJ: Sure. I do want to ask you one question about your photography business, because you guys just – I mean, catapulted. I mean, it seems to go from 0 to 60 pretty quickly. What was it, or what would you attribute that to being able to book so many weddings in a relatively short amount of time and really kickstart that business?
[0:10:27.9] GW: Yeah. For us and this was back in 2008, something like that. The world of photography was quite different. This was before really social media had become such a key factor. For us, it was a lot of people in our age group at that time were getting married, were right within our network were looking for somebody. Between the two of us, we had known a lot of people and got that word out there early saying, “Hey guys, this is what we’re doing. We’d love to be a part of whatever journey that you have as a couple, or offering styled shoots, or second shooting a ton.”
While we shot probably 20 something weddings our first year, I actually shot 50-plus weddings that first year, because I was second shooting a ton as well. I would say it was equal parts referral from those photographers that I had been shooting with who were booked and people just in our network who were just getting married because it’s that age range. That helped us in that first year. Then the second year were primarily referrals from the first year.
[0:11:24.0] DJ: Yeah, that’s awesome. One thing, I mean, I think people overlook second shooting. If you’re a service-based business, you can generally – you can only scale so much, right? If you’re working a wedding on a Saturday, you can’t work another wedding on that Saturday. Krista, also when she was first starting her business second shot a ton in that first year. Those photographer, she built a level of trust with the photographer she was working with. Those photographers that she worked with and was seconding for trusted her enough that when they were booked, they would send those inquiries to her and that really I think started getting that initial client base and then eventually you get word of mouth from those clients and it just hopefully continues to cycle on. That’s awesome.
I do want to dig into CloudSpot as well. Okay, so could you real quick paint a picture of I guess, what was currently, or what was out there back when you started CloudSpot? I assume that will give some insight into why you wanted to create CloudSpot.
[0:12:20.9] GW: Yeah, yeah. CloudSpot came from really me, since I was in charge of all the techie stuff in our business, I was facing a ton of hurdles when it came to delivering images to our clients. Second only by when I did deliver those images, the experience that those clients had. It was terrible. I mean again, 2008 technology has changed a lot, so thankfully things are better and there are better solutions. At the time, there was only a few companies in our space that had even really tried to do it.
I can name names and I won’t bash them, but it’s more like, these are the companies that were in our space. It was Pass, SmugMug, Zenfolio and Pictage. I don’t know if you remember Pictage, but that is –
[0:13:02.5] DJ: Very vaguely. Very vaguely. Zenfolio I didn’t even know. Are they still around?
[0:13:09.1] GW: They’re still around. Yeah, yeah, still around. At the time it was more – and I guess there was shoot proof there at the time as well, but they were a very fledgling company back in 2008. They were the website/proofing/sales companies that were out there. Pass was the new kid on the block, but was so cost-prohibitive for us as a business, because of the volume that we were doing, it would have cost us multiple, multiple thousands of dollars to do it. That just didn’t make sense for us. I was using SmugMug at the time and I was just copying and pasting probably 15 links to our client when we would deliver images to them. It just looked horrible. It took a ton of time. It wasn’t good for them. It wasn’t good for us. At the end of the day, it just felt like, “Hey, here’s a bucket full of links. Have a nice life.” That’s terrible.
I mean, when we were a referral-based business in our first two years, those relationships were precious to us and we did not want it to feel we were just merely giving them to a third party just to get them off of our to-do list and then move on to the next one. We wanted to be proud of it. We wanted them to feel like, “Hey look, they just invested thousands of dollars into us. Why are we giving them an experience that is not reflective of that at the time when their experience with us should be at its high point when we’re giving them their images?” I gave them 10 links to download, that would take them 20 minutes at least just to get their photos. It just wasn’t good.
Over dinner one night, I just looked at Erin, because I was complaining a little bit about my workload because things were bottlenecking on me, because she’s so crazy fast at editing, it’s annoying. I was just like, “There needs to be a better way.” I was like, “I got vendors asking me to send a few images here and there. I’ve got clients that need all these photos. I’m trying to get images to people, like second shooters and stuff like that.” That internet speeds at the time were just not good and it was just – it was a mess.
I looked at her and I said, “Hey, can I go for something?” I don’t know software development. I wish I were that smart, but I’m like, “I have an idea. Can we chase it down? How hard can it be, right?” She’s amazingly believed in me and said, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s do it.” That was four and a half, almost five years ago.
[0:15:21.5] DJ: Okay. Awesome. 2013-ish?
[0:15:23.7] GW: Something like that. Yeah, it was one of the scribbles on the back of the napkin there at dinner, started turning into legal pads worth of scribbles and UI/UX design. Then I had to find developers around the world and started self-funding that and project managing that and trying to get it into beta and just all the joys therein and learning experiences.
[0:15:45.4] DJ: Yeah, and I want to jump into those challenges here in a second, because software is for sure its own beast. Before that, first, I want – it seems like you have this history of coming up with these grand ideas and going after them, which is awesome taking those risks, starting with the photography business in the first place. Is your wife a similar personality to you?
[0:16:07.5] GW: Yes. She is a type-A person to the max. If you watch Friends at all, she is a Monica and I am a Chandler; I guess, if you were to classify. She has lists for her lists and she’s the type where she’ll just sit down and she will edit a whole wedding within two days. She’ll just go for it and just pound it out and move on to the next. Even when we were shooting two, three weddings a weekend, they were all done by the time the next weekend’s weddings rolled around and sent out.
I wasn’t kidding, when the things were bottlenecking on me on the tech side because she was just going so fast and doing such a great job that there’s needed to be a solution. Yeah, she definitely is the wind beneath my wings for helping me chase crazy ideas and she’s the one that really allows me to stay on point while we’ve been building CloudSpot. We’re still shooting, but guess what? I show up, I shoot the day, but she handles everything else. Now because of CloudSpot, she handles the techy stuff, which is amazing.
This started out as a purely selfish endeavor, I guess, just to get the workload off of me and get it to her, but she’s taking care of it and she’s doing great. Now we have a little one as well who’s two and a half, and so we’ve seen big changes and need to happen to our business, because she’s a mom and that is her passion, that is what she wants to do. God bless her for doing that, because she’s doing an amazing job and helping me support me in both areas.
[0:17:31.3] DJ: Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. Krista wanted me to take on the editing when I joined her full-time in the photography business and I was too slow for. Yeah, so she took that back and she did it, because similar to your wife, she could knock it out so quickly and so efficiently and there’s no shot, even if I put years into it probably in catching up with her. When you first envisioned CloudSpot, what was the initial vision for it and how did you see it differing from the competitors already out there?
[0:18:00.6] GW: Yeah. Yeah. There’s two points where I really saw like, “Look, this needs to change.” First, the client experience. The e-mail that they would get from this service needed to look like it came from their business. It should not have looked like it was from a third party that maybe just have a little logo from the top or something. It needed to look like it was from me. I wanted it to be that like, wow. When my clients get this, they go, “Wow, Gavin and Erin have a service all of their own. They have created this thing just for us unique to their business.” Because I feel that really makes an impression.
Second when it comes to delivering images, everybody was being sent through the galleries to download things, or to request a download. There was just a lot of hurdles in that in order to make that happen, because once they would request it, they would get 10, 15, sometimes 20 download links sent to them after they requested it. That was just really tough. There was just a lot of barriers between – it just didn’t make sense to me that your client would get an e-mail, they would click a button, they would go to a gallery. They would click another button, they would enter their e-mail address, they would wait 15, 20, 30 minutes, they’d get another e-mail not from the photographer’s business with more buttons. They click on those buttons, it takes them to another web page with more buttons and then they can finally start clicking the downloading.
I just didn’t feel like a good experience to me. That felt like I was asking for trouble. I just said, “Look, why isn’t there just a way for me to send one image, two images, a whole batch of images, a whole folder of images at any size with or without my watermark in a beautifully branded e-mail? Right there in the very first e-mail a download button should be visible to my client to get exactly what they need from me.” If I could build that experience, that’s what I would want it to be. Those are the two main things that we set out to do with CloudSpot.
The third thing that came about very shortly after was I don’t want this experience even online and the gallery side of things to look like it’s coming from a third party. I don’t want there to be some funky name in the URL. I don’t want there to be some forced branding, or whatever it might be. I want it to look right out of the box just like it’s from my business. Those are the three key things that we tackled when we started building it.
[0:20:12.2] DJ: Yeah. I like what you’re focusing on, because I think it’s going – it was true then, but there are also things that are certainly true now and will be true 10 years from now. You want to focus on client experience and the experience that you’re giving your clients when they go to download and use. Yeah, I think for those of us who are maybe a little bit tech savvy, we sometimes underestimate or overestimate rather, how easy something is for somebody else to complete.
Being able to offer a seamless experience to our clients is super important and along those lines, branding I think is a big one. Sending stuff over to your clients that makes you look like a professional, because it’s your brand, not some other company’s brand. I really like that. I love how you have this vision. Now let’s talk about the execution of the vision, because for software in general, right? It’s a different beast. I mean, for those of us who have started service-based businesses, I mean, when you started your photography business, you went and you bought the barrier to entry is pretty low.
I mean, I know that the equipment costs thousands of dollars, right? I mean to start. You can get a semi-professional camera for maybe – and the lenses you need to go shoot your very first wedding for probably a couple thousand dollars, right?
[0:21:25.4] GW: For sure.
[0:21:26.1] DJ: Software if you want to develop even a relatively simple app solution, it’s going to be more than that couple thousand dollars. Then beyond that, when you go to build things, it’s not like you can just hack on features. It’s hard for me to explain. You’ve probably articulated a little bit better, but one conversation we had at UNITED was that you guys had just basically created this new awesome API, months of development, but something that happens behind the scenes that I guess, I could empathize that you probably put a ton of effort in, but nobody’s really going to know that, because it’s not a front-facing thing, right? The foundations that sometimes go into development, nobody sees all that work, right? They only see the tip iceberg, which is whatever the consumer-facing portion of that is.
I just have a lot of respect for you all who have started software companies like Showit and we had Nate from a sticky on here as well. Anyways, tell us what were the biggest challenges in creating CloudSpot?
[0:22:37.0] GW: I guess, it just depends on what phase, because it feels like every other week it’s a different set of challenges, right? I love the challenges. As you put it, the tip of the iceberg is what everybody sees and that’s how you’re judged, right? I guess, perception wise in the industry. Yeah, like we talked about. We spent seven months working on something behind the scenes that if executed perfectly, would change absolutely nothing on the client side of things from photographers.
Yet behind the scenes, everything changed. There were actually more lines of code in that change than the entire web application and client gallery side of things of CloudSpot combined. It’s just one of those things. We know that setting that foundation is so key and not necessarily for where we are now. When you’re first getting started and trying to get a beta out there, you absolutely need to build this monolithic thing that you try and go fast, you try and get a minimum viable product out there, get feedback as quickly as possible, but then once you start getting traction and once you start getting beyond that product market fit side of things, then it completely changes in terms of what the expectations are and what you need to be looking at.
You can’t be looking at just 10 feet down the road. You’ve got to be looking at a 100 yards down, you’ve got to be looking at five football fields away to certain degrees when it comes to architecture of a system like that. You don’t learn those things necessarily by just reading a book. It’s hardcore experience. It starts out small, it starts out with duct tape and chewing gum and all that stuff and then you start building in these systems and processes as you need them to get there.
For challenges for us in the early days, for me because I was not a developer, the challenge was finding someone to actually just start, to break ground, to understand what the vision was and for me to trust that person. Then that one person turned into a few people and that few people turned into I think at one time, we had 10 developers working on CloudSpot at a given time all over the world. It’s a 100% remote. That was my all day every day endeavor while we were doing photography.
The challenge for that was finding good talent. The lesson learned there was you get what you pay for. When it comes to developing, there really are no shortcuts that will actually pay off. In that respect, if you find somebody who can say, “Oh, yeah. I’ll do it for X amount. It will take me to X amount of time.” Be wary, because I initially got quoted for CloudSpot to be created in general, and my whole vision like, “Oh, yeah.” This person was like “Oh, yeah. It will take me five months and $35,000.” I was like, “Oh, shoot. That’s fine. We could do that. No problem.”
Yeah, it didn’t take that long and it didn’t cost that much [inaudible 0:25:25.6]. It’s learning lessons there. It’s all about setting expectations. It’s all about making sure that you’re always working towards prioritizing the very best thing for that particular time and those particular challenges.
Even for companies, I have massive respect as well for companies where people are like, “Oh, this company hasn’t done anything for weeks or whatever, months.” I’m like, “Well, no. They probably have. They’re probably tackling a whole bunch of other things that you just can’t see, or they’re prepping and preparing for something that will help catapult their vision forward even more.” It’s a day-to-day thing and you are only as good as the people that you surround yourself with. I feel very fortunate to have great folks on the CloudSpot team and a great community of photographers as well, because gosh, everybody shows up here every single day to serve the amazing industry that we love so much and do our very best.
[0:26:19.9] DJ: Yeah. I mean, it seems like today, you guys are a well-oiled machine and you’re constantly rolling out with new fun stuff, I mean, beyond what people would expect from a solution like yours. In that time period like you said, it didn’t take five months and $35,000 to build, right? It was a matter of finding the right people to help you actually bring this vision to life. If I were to blow – not that you blew $35,000, but if I got to the end of that $35,000 road, I would be pretty weary of continuing down that road. What are some of the things, I guess that kept you going beyond that? I’m guessing at the end of five months, you didn’t have – you certainly didn’t have CloudSpot as it is today, right?
[0:27:08.1] GW: No, we didn’t even have an MVP. What was supposed to be five months turned into a year and a half. Even then, we had a beta. After that, it took a number that had a few more zeros beyond that 35 to even get an MVP out there. As we’re growing and as we were scaling, there are things that just had to be redone and we had to be optimizing our systems. What kept going is quite honestly, knowing that this was needed, knowing that there was a group of people out there that had this same problem. It was belief in the fact that this problem needed a solution, because if I didn’t feel that way, then I would not have invested what we did, I would not have spent the time we did, I would have not have sacrificed the time with my wife, the time from friends, the time from chasing something else.
I think as a CEO, or as an entrepreneur, or as someone who’s starting your own thing, there’s going to be so many, so many times where the world or even people will tell you that, “Look, hang it up man. This doesn’t seem realistic. This doesn’t seem – I don’t see the endgame here. What are you going for? These 10 things went wrong and you’re waiting for this one thing to go right? How does that make any sense, whatsoever?”
In reality, it probably doesn’t if you’re coming at it from a purely logical way. If I put my Spock ears on for a second, it probably wouldn’t make any sense, but it’s belief in what you’re going to accomplish and not what’s going to happen next month or next week, but what your true vision is for. That’s not to say that I have this big, huge, clearly perfect vision at the very beginning, or even now, but it’s knowing that there are people that we can help with this. Even if just a pocketful and even if this is just a nice little business that people can truly just be a part of as a community, then we’re going to do it.
We just kept having that belief. You have to as an entrepreneur, always have that glass half-full mentality, even when everybody else is thinking you can’t. Yeah, it’s putting the blinders on and truly believing in what you’re setting out to accomplish.
[0:29:24.6] DJ: Yeah. I feel there’s certain aspects of Todd’s story with Showit that I’m calling to mind here. It’s really interesting. I think, it’s easy to gloss over those challenging aspects of the story while we retell it. I think it’s just so – it’s so nice for people to hear that, your perspective, Todd’s perspective, other people who we’ve had on the show their perspectives from how they dealt with those challenges for motivation just a reminder that sometimes the noises that they hear from the outside, they need to shut out and not listen to and keep their head down and keep working and keep going. Eventually though, so one and a half years later, two years later or so, right, you have an MVP. From there on out, what was the goal? How did you start acquiring your first customers?
[0:30:13.6] GW: As part of being in this industry, I had friends. I said, “Hey guys, can you give this a shot?” It just started with my inner circle here in Southern California. Just like, “Hey guys, do you mind support the home team a little bit here? I need some feedback. I need some help,” in terms of building what you want to see next. I’ve gotten to the point where I think this is what is a good starting point that solves a couple key problems, but where did we go from here?
A couple of other companies had sprouted up since I had started, actually. When we were first launching in beta, another company went live and their timing was amazing. We were a few months behind that regrettably. There was a lot of things that we learned from that in going forward. We just started growing our spheres slowly, slowly, slowly. That’s been the trajectory of our business ever since. It’s just slow and steady with fiercely loyal photographers who are in our community who have that problem.
I say if you’re going out to build something, building something for the masses and trying to have it to apply to everybody, it’s going to be a wrong approach in your first days. You need to niche down to find that one subset of the subset of people who you just absolutely blow away and have those fiercely loyal folks.
I think it was either Seth Godin, or another awesome entrepreneur and he said, “Don’t go and find a million people who like what you got. Go find a thousand people who absolutely love it and can’t live without it.” That’s the foundation on a business and a good business should grow. That’s when you really have that proof of concept that look, well we’re onto something here. We didn’t catapult too huge numbers overnight. It was year after year after year. We got some, we lost some. We weren’t able to apply to every single business and we knew that and that’s okay. Guess what? The ones that we did, we were working really hard to make it even better. Then as our feature set grows and as it continues to grow, we know we’ll be able to bring more and more awesome businesses into our community. That’s been the approach.
[0:32:10.5] DJ: Yeah, so over the last couple years especially since – I mean, since that MVP beta just launching to your inner circle of friends, what would you say the big milestones have been for CloudSpot?
[0:32:21.4] GW: I would say probably getting – so getting it out there into the world, launching it.
[0:32:25.9] DJ: Oh, for sure.
[0:32:27.2] GW: Then getting that initial set of customers, getting that feedback, rolling on that feedback and then learning how to best manage, because when you’re building something in a silo in the shadows, it’s really easy. You can go all cowboy and make a change and then do it real fast and then keep going. When you have actual users, you’re getting a flood of feedback coming in. Then you’re also having a flood of things you want to do, and so then all of these bugs that you never thought were even possible might be coming in, because guess what? People use your software different than you do time and time again.
They have different platforms, they have different network connections, they have different everything, right? Some people don’t even use a mouse. Some people use a pen. All those types of things that you just can’t necessarily see coming end-to-end that are now coming flooding at you as well.
I would say, because we were in a tech incubator for a little bit after CloudSpot launched and a lot of companies hadn’t been out in a release yet, were not in revenue or anything. They were stressing out like, “Oh, my gosh. We just got working on our product.” When they would launch, it’d be really fun to see just their whole attitude change like, “Man, I thought the work was over when I finished that product and got it out there. The work is just beginning.”
Quite honestly, when you have hundreds, thousands, however many people coming at you at the opposite direction saying, “Hey look, I need this, I want that. Do this, do that,” it’s so important to stick to your guns of what you believed in before you even press that big green button to send it live of “Hey, what are we building this for? Who are we building it for and what do we set out to accomplish?” Stay in laser-focused on that is going to be key in getting you through those initial times, because you can’t please everybody, which is fine but you can stay true to who you are as a company and who you’re serving. You’re either going to attract or repel. The hope is you do both of those very quickly to allow you to keep growing.
[0:34:18.8] DJ: Yeah. I think one of the – one of the things that I love about the software companies that I love is that they focus on the must-haves. They’re laser-focused on what features they roll out for that, for whatever that app is and they don’t go off and try to build crazy new things that would basically be a new solution, right? How does CloudSpot cut through that noise? Because you’re always going to get user feedback and honestly, some of it’s probably not very good. Not in terms of like, oh, they’re giving you – they’re being negative about CloudSpot, but just the idea is not very good. It doesn’t fit within the division of CloudSpot, it wouldn’t be beneficial for those core CloudSpot users that you’re trying to build for.
How do you figure out like, “Okay, what feedback should I focus on next?” Because you probably at any given time have well more than a dozen things that you could do. How do you figure out what’s next?
[0:35:14.3] GW: Absolutely. I would say three dozen things that we could do. That’s part of being an industry where there are companies 10, even 15 years older than you out there. When we’re pretty much as photographers, if we gain a new photographer in the CloudSpot community, it’s not because generally they’re brand spanking new and they’ve never had a gallery service before. They’re actually coming to us from another gallery service. Having an online presence is pretty much the status quo for photographers. Very rarely will we have someone coming to us from just a Dropbox. Although when they do, yeah, that is our bread and butter and get blown away, right?
Yeah, for other folks coming they’re like, “Hey, I need this. I need that.” We say, “Hey, totally get it. Yeah, we’re working on that. That’s part of who we are. Guess what? You came to us for a reason and here are those reasons that this site can leverage those to create that amazing experience. To have that workflow optimization for you and to allow you to make this aspect of your business something that you can be even that much more proud of, because you came to us for a reason. We love feedback. We always promise to listen. That’s core to who we are.”
Sometimes it might not fit within what we want to do. The example that you mentioned earlier was when we transitioned from a desktop application to a purely web-based application, that was the absolute best move for us to make. Guess what? I can’t tell you how many messages we got from our existing users who we love dearly who had been with us from the very beginning saying, “You guys, this is horrible. I don’t like it. Change is bad.” All those kinds of stuff. I get that. It’s like, “Look, we are growing just as you were growing. We hope you’ll support us in that way. If you don’t like it, I totally get that. I’m sorry. Hey, here’s the things that we are doing, here’s the ways that we are working for you.”
At times, that negativity – as a founder sometimes you’re really, really close to it, right? I’m removing myself as time goes on a little bit more from that, because sometimes the negativity can be deafening. That’s not because the positivity isn’t there, but just those squeaky wheels sometimes can get into your ear. Whether you’re right in the software business, or whether you’re running just a wedding photography business, not just, but running a photography business where it is just you with your one-on-one clients, guess what? You get one bad review, or you get an unhappy client through no fault of your own.
[0:37:32.0] DJ: Or a unhappy family member of a client that’s not even your client, right?
[0:37:35.4] GW: Exactly.
[0:37:36.6] DJ: That’s what rings over and over in your head.
[0:37:39.2] GW: It eats at you. We pour our heart and soul into our business. When something like that comes back, it is almost impossible not to take it personally at first. It’s building that thick skin, it’s being true to who you are and it’s realizing sometimes that you cannot please everybody. That is okay. Because if you are trying to please everybody when you’re building a business, you’re not building that business for you anymore, you’re building it for them. That’s huge in terms of sucking the joy out of why you started it to begin with, but also who you started it for. That’s just so core to having joy within the process and not having as many gray hairs along the way.
[0:38:16.4] DJ: Yeah. I would say if you’re building a business for everybody, you’re probably not building a remarkable business. You’re not building a business where people are going to be really excited about you and what you do. Maybe that’s a good segue into where have you found the most success in acquiring customers for CloudSpot? In the last couple years is you got the wheels on the bus, what have been the most effective marketing channels for you all?
[0:38:40.1] GW: It’s a great question. I would say not what you would probably think. Photographers like oh, conventions, big trade shows, that’s where you got to get all of your users, right? You need to be there. If you’re not there, that’s a big miss. That’s probably the most inaccurate statement. I thought that’s what we needed to do, right? In the early days, even when CloudSpot was just in beta, because we missed a dev milestone and we didn’t launch in time for WPPI years and years ago, but we already had a booth space. We had already built the booths. We have sunk way too much money to a custom booth that took hours and hours to set up and all that stuff. Guess what? We had it. People were interested, but we had maybe a dozen people actually buy.
I was like, “Well, why?” For software, I think it’s different than let’s say, products, or things like that that you need to hold and feel and try. For software, there’s a much longer sales cycle for that in terms of someone getting a demo, having their specific questions answered and having the time to explore that. When you’re on a busy trade show floor walking around with lots of shiny things all around, that’s not necessarily conducive to sitting down and figuring out if this is a great fit for you.
What we discovered was it’s not – we would rather invest in other areas, and so what we’ve done is we’ve invested more into our community, invested more into smaller pockets of those communities. Like when we saw each other at Showit UNITED, there was 350 people at that conference, but more people enjoying the CloudSpot family there than when we went to WPPI two years ago and there was 15,000 people.
There’s a reason for that. It’s because we got to talk with everybody. We got to spend that time. We got to build those relationships, rather than someone like flying by us, just trying to see what we’re all about as they’re walking through trying to get to other places. We love that. It’s been a very relational process for us. We tackle anything from customer support, to e-mails, to even our features, to even our private Facebook community. This is something that we are building for photographers. We are fiercely dedicated to their success and we will spend more time with them, even if that means less people coming through the door and that’s important for us.
Because we’re photographers too. I get that. That’s what we’re always going to stay true to, no matter what our size is. Traditional marketing is good to an extent; Facebook ads, Instagram ads, yes absolutely. When we’re doing this filming now, we’re coming off the hills of cyber Monday and Black Friday, and we would not have had the month that we had had had we not run those ads, had we not getting that word out – gotten that word out there. Those are flashes in the pan, those are small little spikes, those are not what’s going to give you the slow continual month-over-month rise.
We’ve found that don’t just send something out there and hope it works, right? The whole field of dreams thing, if you build it, they will come. That’s rarely true. It’s plant the seeds and wait for those flowers to grow. With every interaction that we have with our photographers, we’re just like us, we’re planting those seeds. That’s a long game for sure, but that’s how we’re going to always handle things.
[0:41:43.7] DJ: Yeah, and probably more impactful over the long-term. I was a little surprised when you first mentioned the trade show thing, because I immediately thought about Showit when people were just constantly around the CloudSpot booth. You’re right, it’s a smaller very much a relational conference. I think one of the big draws of Showit not only are there great lesson, breakouts and things like that, but one of the draws I think are the relationships at a conference like that. Like you mentioned, you get to pretty much talk to everybody that you need to talk to, instead of trying to cut through the noise of 15,000 people, plus all of the other vendors trying to also reach those people.
As we wrap up here, I want to know if you can give us any insight into the future of CloudSpot. I guess, before we get to that even, one thing I do want to mention on their relational note as well, as one of the big things I know for Krista when we switched over to CloudSpot, because that was one of the biggest things. Josh Newton, a mutual friend of ours had called and said, “Hey, you should give this a shot.” I like Josh a lot, so of course, speaking of relationships and the impact of relationships, I definitely willing to give it a shot.
In my mind I’m thinking, “Okay, well we had actually recently switched solutions before that.” Now I was thinking like, “Oh, we’re going to have to move all these galleries.” That was one of the biggest things. Then we’re going to have to learn something new. Krista who really was the person doing that, two things she mentioned; one, I mean, and I don’t know if you all still do this, but the free migration if you start up our plan.
[0:43:13.4] GW: We do. We’d still do that.
[0:43:15.0] DJ: Yes, that was huge, all right? Then beyond that, even that the learning that had to be done when we got on CloudSpot, if we sent you all a message, you all responded in record time. It was like we had a personal person helping us out. I think that’s true of the Facebook community as well is if I see a question posed on the Facebook community, somebody from the CloudSpot team is back to that person and what seems like 10 minutes, if that. Definitely just a shout out for your support and the way that you support your customers.
[0:43:46.0] GW: Thank you.
[0:43:47.5] DJ: Can you can you tell us what can we expect for CloudSpot moving forward? I mean, I know we had talked about this big month-long building from the ground. It took seven months to redo this this API, right? I know that opens the doors for things. People don’t get to see that now, but I know in the future it allows for different things. What’s coming?
[0:44:06.3] GW: So many things in the pipeline. It’s exciting. That big seven-month refactor was all revolving around our store for the e-commerce side of things.
[0:44:14.7] DJ: Okay. That’s where it was. Yeah.
[0:44:16.5] GW: We’re going to be expanding upon that. Because again, being true to us wanting photographers to be as successful as possible, we’re going to start building out more features for them to sell more and have that experience not just for them but for their clients be as great as it can possibly be. We’re successful when they’re successful for sure. A lot of store-related things, that means more labs coming, that means more products from our existing lab partner, all of that.
Secondary, we’re going to be working on a couple other things related towards again, client experience side of things. Think more along the lines of a mobile app type of situation, instead of sending an e-mail and sending the gallery, it’s more something that gets directly sent out from the photographer to the client on their device that they can live on there. That’s not unique in concept, but it will be unique in implementation in terms of how we do that and the functionality that will be available for photographers through those types of apps. That’s coming as well.
Then we are integrated with a CRM company called Dubsado right now and we really value that relationship and that partnership. We did a phase one type of integration with them back in April of last year, or of this year, almost last year. In 2019, we’ve got something coming for phase two of that. Again, thinking through for photographers in their workflow, the information that lives in your CRM with your contracts and your invoices and your client information were going to be more seamlessly blending that together when it comes to your workflow.
[0:45:42.2] DJ: Yeah, that’s awesome. Real quick before we get off, I do want to talk about one more thing that we haven’t got a chance to talk to, but some current features that you all just rolled out; one, which has been really interesting to us as designers, but that we haven’t got to actually test yet, which is easily embedding galleries straight into your website. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[0:46:02.4] GW: Absolutely. This again is core to us wanting to create that experience for our clients. That really just goes above and beyond, feels like is a 100% yours. With CloudSpot, you get what’s called we call a home page and you could allow any client gallery to be visible on that home page. That normally lives on its own separate URL and you can just send that out. What we built is the ability to embed those galleries, that page itself into any website. It’s just a quick little iframe, so it doesn’t require a degree from MIT to make it happen or even a higher developer. Either as a designer or as a photographer, you can grab a quick iframe code, drop it into your Showit site, your Squarespace, your WordPress, anything like that and it’s right there. It’s visible, it’s meshed perfectly with the experience you want to create.
When you’re in your CloudSpot dashboard and let’s say you shoot a killer wedding and like, “Oh, man. I want this on my portfolio.” All you need to do is flip a switch and it’s instantly updated to your home page, which is embedded into your site. Having a living, breathing portfolio site and your galleries and go through your hard drive to get images, it’s a huge time saver and really with the power of CloudSpot allowing you to create as many galleries as you want per event. You can do it literally within seconds.
[0:47:16.2] DJ: That’s awesome. I will have to put together some tutorial how to do that on Showit in WordPress sites for sure.
[0:47:23.3] GW: Absolutely. This sounds like there’s so much exciting things coming from CloudSpot. Like I said, we use CloudSpot. It’s been a great solution for us and I know there are a ton of people. What’s interesting is that I mean, I know some of these things you were looking at in 2008 feeling like, “Oh, these things need to change.” I think to a certain extent, people are still looking to for solutions to some of these problems. I know I talked to plenty of people at UNITED, especially after I was done teaching on SEO and content who are asking about CloudSpot and images and things like that that were having also some of these issues that you were experiencing back pre-2010 still in 2018 here.
I told these – I told each of them. I said, “Hey, listen.” I don’t just tell people to switch, because I know how much work goes into that, but I told each of them, I said, “Hey, if you switch, I know that in six months if I ask you how things are going, you’re going to have nothing but positive things to say.” That’s certainly the experience that we’ve had with CloudSpot so far.
Gavin was kind enough to put together a special promotion just for the listeners of this podcast. If you use the code BTB Show, as in Brands That Book Show, you can get 25% off any plan for the first year. If you’re interested in making the switch, you should definitely check that out. I don’t get anything for you you using that code, all right? That is just me helping promote a product that Krista and I have really enjoyed using.
[0:48:53.6] GW: I’ll tack on to that as well, Davey. Anyone who wants to make the switch, we’ll do our free image migration service as well for them.
[0:48:59.9] DJ: Okay. Awesome.
[0:49:00.9] GW: Moving is never easy now than to make the switch. Thanks to you guys.
[0:49:04.3] DJ: Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well Gavin, thank you so much for taking the time to share a little bit about your story and a little bit about the direction that CloudSpot is going. We’re going to be really exciting. We’re looking forward to some of these new features that you just mentioned. Thank you.
[0:49:18.5] GW: Hey, thank you Davey. Great to see you, man. Talk with you soon.
[0:49:21.6] DJ: Sounds good.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:49:25.4] DJ: Thanks for tuning into the Brands That Book Show. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review in iTunes. For show notes and other resources, head on over to daveyandkrista.com.